From The Rector

Bemerton Parish Reflections - February 2017

Rev'd Simon Woodley writes:

In Ford Maddox Ford's First World War novel-sequence, Parade’s End (1924-28), Christopher Tietjens uses Herbert at Bemerton in order to maintain his sanity on the Western front - it is worth quoting in full:

"Tietjens was sentimentally at rest, still with wet eyes. He was walking near Salisbury in a grove, regarding long pastures and ploughlands running to dark, high elms from which, embowered ... Embowered was the word! - peeped the spire of George Herbert's church. One ought to be a seventeenth-century parson at the time of the renaissance of Anglican saintliness ... who wrote, perhaps, poems." (Penguin, p497)


Hidden Connections

In 2012 the BBC made a drama series of Parade's End. The following February, around the day Herbert is remembered in the Anglican Church, someone in my home town of Bedford preached about Bemerton, and mentioned my name as his successor. By chance, the Ford Madox Ford Society is based in Bedford, and one of its members heard the sermon. Later he contacted me, asking if I knew the connection to Parade’s End. Such 'coincidences' seem to me to be either God nudging and directing us, or possibly they are glimpses of the much vaster, deeper, way that we are all connected, and all the world around us, but that is hidden most of the time.

The BBC's 'Parade's End'

THE BBC's 'PARADE'S END'

'Up on a little hill'

Clearly Bemerton made quite an impression on Ford Maddox Ford. He goes on to write:

"The land remains. ... It remains! ... At that same moment the dawn was wetly revealing; over there in George Herbert's parish ... What was it called? ... What the devil was its name? Oh, Hell! ... Between Salisbury and Wilton. ... The tiny church ... [...] The name Bemerton suddenly came on to his tongue. Yes, Bemerton, Bemerton, Bemerton was George Herbert's parsonage. Bemerton, outside Salisbury. ... The cradle of the race as far as our race was worth thinking about. He imagined himself standing up on a little hill, a lean contemplative parson, looking at the land sloping down to Salisbury spire. A large, clumsily bound seventeenth-century testament, Greek, beneath his elbow."

It's good to think of Bemerton being 'the cradle of the race' - but aah, how these writers like to run away with things!

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Simon Woodley (rector@georgeherbert.org.uk)